Arena Income Up 128 Percent

December 27, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Van Andel Arena had another successful financial month in November. Net income for the building was $214,143 — well above the expected $119,850 projected for the month.

Twenty-two events were held at the arena during November, but three concerts stood out revenue-wise. Creed and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra were sellouts, while the John Mellencamp show sold better than expectations. Strong food and beverage sales during events also boosted the arena’s income.

“November was a successful month for the arena. We had three successful concerts,” said Chris Machuta, SMG director of finance.

Net income after capital expenditures for the fiscal year at the arena stood at $537,186 after five months, or 128 percent higher than at the same point last year when that figure was $235,823. FY02 was the second-best revenue year in the building’s history with net income of $1.6 million.

But Machuta warned that December and January could be slower income months for the arena.

“We do have a few shows going on in the next few weeks,” he said.

The arena capital fund was hit with an unbudgeted bill of $67,055 for the protective netting system that was installed at the north and south ends of the ice rink.

The National Hockey League issued a mandate last summer requiring the nets to protect seats behind both goals after a 13-year-old girl was hit by a puck at a game in Columbus, Ohio, last spring and died a few days later. The American Hockey League issued its mandate shortly after, meaning that the netting had to be in place at the arena for all Grand Rapids Griffins games.

The Convention and Arena Authority had to pick up the tab for it because of the lease agreement the board has with the franchise. If the netting didn’t go up, the arena would be liable for any injuries that might occur.

“We took the position that we had to move on this,” said Jim Watt, SMG assistant general manager.

Watt said netting systems run as high as $140,000. One NHL facility spent $125,000 on its system. Still, even with the unexpected expense, it looks like the arena’s capital fund will remain under budget for the fiscal year.

“At this point, even with the inclusion of this, we will still likely be under budget,” said Watt to members of the CAA Finance Committee.

Watt said the arena bought the netting and then cut it to fit the building so it would properly cover the lower bowl, which is the league’s requirement. The netting rises to 38 feet, however, so the trusses that support it don’t block anyone’s view in either bowl.

Watt said the only partially obstructed view is from the sound booth, at the top of the north end. From there, he said, the truss interferes with the sight line of the video board hung at the south end.

Machuta added that he was prepared to get a lot of complaints from Griffins customers about the netting blocking sight lines, but so far there had only been one. Many more people, he said, have told arena management that they feel safer at a game with the netting in place. The nets are lowered for concerts and shows at the arena.

The CAA finance and operations committee approved the expenditure for the netting system. The full board will vote on it next month.

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